Monday, January 15, 2018

Trumped up pedagogy

"No, no, no, I am not a racist. I am the least racist person you have ever interviewed." 
January 14, 2018

President Trump gets under my skin; if you're here, he probably gets under yours, too.

Many teachers mumble to themselves, and occasionally to each other, how gullible "those" people must be to support him. How can anyone believe what the man says when the evidence screams otherwise?

And then we shuffle off to our classrooms, arms full of papers and books, pockets full of markers, and do what we do. We teach using the best, the very best research education has to offer. And we do it wrong.

We cater to learning styles, we worship the learning pyramid, we tell kids to go figure out this world on their own.

All of it nonsense, but belief (or pretending to believe) is part of the American cult of pedagogy.

Every week or so I immerse myself in the Trump radio universe--I listen to the hosts, I listen to the callers, listen to the myths and the closed loops of reasoning, and it starts to generate an internal rhythm that makes sense. Throw the sense of community in it (and make no mistake, the nationalist/racist movement deep in our bowels depends on this) and this stuff is like cocaine to caged rats.

We do the same thing in education.

A little self awareness goes a long way.

Of course he's a racist....but you might be, too.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

January lettuce

January lettuce, from the garden.
Yesterday marked the last day of the darkest 6 weeks of the year.

The cold snap wounded the rosemary bush, but enough of the lettuce hung on in the cold frames to share with friends tonight. Winter around here is hard on all of us, but the light is returning to put the pieces back together again.

Halfway between the solstice and Imolc, back into November light. 
And we're still here.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018


Patch for my Dad's squadron.
Chuck was the first adult I called by his first name. I was five.The next adult I called by his first name did not happen until I was an adult myself.

Chuck was a United States Marine Corps helicopter pilot, and a friend of my Dad, a Unites States Marine fighter jet pilot. Both flew off carriers.

Chuck went to Nam; my Dad did not. My Dad did not go because he had an emotionally disturbed son who did not talk, so he stayed stateside. (Turns out that emotionally disturbed son was more deaf than disturbed, and eventually learned to talk well enough to become a doctor.)

Chuck got shot down. He came back home. He had a scarred face, and looking back now I do not know if it was from shrapnel or acne.

My Dad left the Marines in the mid sixties. Chuck stayed in. I was not terribly sophisticated about politics when I was six years old, but I wondered why Chuck stayed in the Marines. I even asked him when my Dad wasn't listening. (Don't think my Dad would have tolerated that, and I didn't much like getting hit.)

Chuck gave my brother and me a toy aircraft carrier that released depth charges. It's how I learned about depth charges.

My Dad would tell us that Chuck was the worst chopper pilot ever. It was a joke. But Chuck went to Nam anyway.

The last time I saw Chuck told me why he went back--he was haunted by the soldiers he left behind. And the war, which I was told was "bad," got real complicated for this 6 year old.

Chuck tried to save one too many soldiers, and he got shot down again. And killed. I imagine the ones he went to save were killed that day, too.

And so it goes.....

Sunday, January 7, 2018

The lighter side of teaching....

"Looks like the National [White] Teacher of the Year awards are back in full effect. I figured (and may have even predicted!) in 2016 when three of the four finalists were teachers of color that pendulum would swing back quickly. ::heavy sigh::" Melinda Anderson
I came back with something flippant, along the lines of

"What will it take to make you people happy?"

It was meant as sarcasm, but I soon deleted it, because, well, I feared it might be misunderstood. Or maybe I feared it would be understood, a *wink wink* as an ally.

But here we are.

In 2016, three of the four finalists for the CCSSO Teacher of the Year Award were people of color.
Since then, all of the eight finalists have been white.

Of those, only two are even brown-eyed. (I'd be more specific, but I'm a tad color blind--in the physiological sense, not the I-am-better-than-you-as-a-non-racist *we* carry as our shield.)

This year's finalists are all worthy. That is not the issue. That is not a defense.

TOTY Finalists, via Twitter (@ATLtrackclub)

And yes, the teaching profession has a remarkable lack of melanin and y chromosomes. (*We* pretend not to notice, unless you're a black male teacher, in which case it is expected you will go save young black men.)

The finalists mean well, they do good work and work hard, and they fill the role of saviors that make for good stories. Still....

Listen up, *my* people.

Mandy Manning is the Washington State Teacher of the Year and one of this year's finalists for the national award. She helps refugees adapt to life in the States, and talks about a boy from Tanzania who undergoes a remarkable transformation under her guidance. I have no doubt she is that good at what she does, and that she works hard at doing the right thing.
“District leaders, campus resource officers, community members of color, and professional writers have also visited my classroom. The visits help my students learn about school and city rules and laws, cultural expectations in terms of behavior and hygiene, our school system, and how to express themselves effectively.”  
On its face, that makes a nice soundbite, but it bothers me, because it's what *we* do, what I have done, and what so many allies continue to do. That "community members of color" is separated from the others is telling.

What *we* teach becomes what we enforce:

So here we are. 
Our President of color replaced by a white man who supports white supremacy.
Our Teachers of the Year finalists are back to storybook savior roles.
We can all be colorblind again.

Why always a boy from Tanzania?
Do yourself a favor, and follow Melinda Anderson on Twitter.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

New Year's Eve

A couple of year's ago on New Year's eve.
Closest thing I come to resolutions these days.

I watched the sun as it set yesterday.
I watched the sun as it rose again this morning.

I don't do this often enough, few of us do.

Just a few minutes after the sun broke through this morning, a twitchy squirrel sat on top of a fence post, still, facing the sun, then resumed his twitchiness.

A vulture flew within 20 feet of me, its under feathers reflecting the sunlight as it banked.

I just watched.
It would have happened anyway.
And it's happening anyway.

And it will keep on happening....

Saccharin or sugar?

A letter to *us*:

It really does not matter if you proudly proclaim your allyship, wear Malcolm X t-shirts, march with thousands of others, or openly weep for fallen social warriors.

It really does not matter if you count your friends of color on more than one hand, count your tax deductions to the NAACP, count the number of people killed by angry, frightened cops.

It really does not matter if you groove to the Sun Ra Arkestra, Kendrick Lamar, or The Ink Spots.
None of it matters unless you do the things that need doing, in your loop, right now.

Ms. Garner had a more poetic way of summing this up--she got straight to the point, one of her many strengths.
Erica Garner (credit Aaron Stewart-Ahn via Twitter)

Yep, it may cost you more than that psychic hairshirt you wear a tad too proudly. Nope, you don't get any points.

Yep, your social circle may cinch up a bit. Nope, no one cares. Erica Garner reminded us what it means to hurt, to fight, to live.

Want to be sugar? Do what you need to do. What you already know needs to be done (but keep asking anyway hoping maybe saccharine is enough).

You can still wear that Malcolm X t-shirt, but keep it hidden under your clothes. Might make you feel a little bit like Clark Kent. You got the power, but nobody needs to know it.

Except you.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

E-phemeral words

Found on our classroom typewriter....
Not so long ago, likely within your lifetime and certainly within mine, high schools had the same cliques and cruelty, but with a big difference. Bullying was personal.  This does not make it any better, and in some ways made it hurt more, but cyber-bullying is easy and anonymous, a big reason it is so prevalent. We crowd-source our cowardice.

Simply telling a child to lose her smartphone for a week is not going to work. She may feel better for a few days (once she gets past those first few hours of dopamine deficiency), but unless she has a relationship with the world around her, or with books, or with a few close people, she has been ostracized from her community.

We need to reclaim writing as a physical form--an act of creating a physical connection shared intimately (and only) with those with whom we choose. Folded notes passed discretely during class, etched words (not just penises) on desks, hearts carved on trees, letters delivered by mail carriers, all physical manifestations of our ideas

In our haste to move forward, we forget what we leave behind.

It's not nostalgic if you're still using it....